Think Twenty20 and runs come to your mind first up, more often than not. Images of Chris Gayle, Shane Watson and David Warner belting the cricket ball over the infield and into the stands, of bowlers being with hands on hips or head craning their necks to see their offerings being swatted into the stands.
But so far in IPL 6, the lack of authoritative opening partnerships has been stark. The top two run-getters have been No. 3 batsman, and even though the next five have been openers the lack of strong opening stands has been noticeable in a tournament marked by more middling totals than big ones.
In the first 24 matches, 19 opening combinations have been tried out. Sunrisers Hyderabad have been forced to make changes at the top due to the absence of the injured Shikhar Dhawan; Delhi Daredevils opened with David Warner and Unmukt Chand for three matches while Virender Sehwag was recovering; and when Shane Watson has not been fit Rajasthan Royals used Kusal Perera. Royal Challengers Bangalore have tried three different opening partnerships to try and find a suitable ally for Chris Gayle. Pune Warriors tried out Manish Pandey before settling on Aaron Finch, who has two half-centuries in four innings. Chennai Super Kings dropped Michael Hussey for one match and their new opening pair put on 0. The only teams to stick to a single pair are Kings XI Punjab, Kolkata Knight Riders and Mumbai Indians.
Most teams in the season have struggled to put up runs at the start of the innings, and this is reflected in the numbers.
Here's a look at how the nine teams have fared in terms of opening stands:
CSK - Pairs: 2. Runs: 183. Overs: 26.2. Average: 36.6. Run rate: 6.98
Chennai average the second-highest for opening partnerships - 36.6 - but that number is almost entirely due to the unbroken 139 that Hussey and Murali Vijay added in the ten-wicket win over Punjab. CSK's other four opening stands have produced 10, 4, 0 and 30. That 139-run alliance in 17.2 overs has also lifted the team's overall run rate to 6.98. The one match in which CSK opted to rest Hussey, his replacement Srikkanth Anirudha was out for 0 without a run on the board, in two deliveries. Two of CSK's poor starts have come in defeats.
PWI - Pairs: 2 Runs: 229 Overs: 29.4 Average 38.16 Run rate: 7.79
Pune's openers - there have been three so far - have delivered the most number of runs for any team so far in IPL 6. This has largely due to Aaron Finch's introduction for the team's third match (they lost the first two) and his success since then. Finch and Robin Uthappa have put together two fifty-plus stands - joint with Mumbai - one of which was the highest for any team this season: 96 for 1 in the win over CSK. Pune are also second to CSK in terms of average runs per opening wicket - 38.16. Their run rate of 7.79 for opening partnerships is the best for any team in IPL 6.
RR - Pairs: 2 Runs: 138 Overs: 17.4 Average: 27.6 Run rate: 7.93
Rajasthan are averaging 27.6 for the first wicket after six matches, with a best opening stand of 62 in 7.3 overs powered by Watson. Rajasthan's run-rate is also a healthy 7.93, the best for all teams. Rajasthan are No. 1 on the IPL 6 leaderboard, with Rahul Dravid having a major role to play at No. 3 and Rahane consistently getting starts.
DD - Pairs: 2 Runs: 93 Overs: 13.5 Average: 15.5 Run rate: 6
It is perhaps no surprise to see how poorly Delhi's openers have fared when you consider they have lost all six matches so far. Delhi have lost wickets with a run on the board on three occasions, with Unmukt Chand falling to the first delivery of an innings twice. It's pretty easy to see why they have failed to win matches. Lacking Kevin Pietersen and Jesse Ryder, the middle order has just not been able to put up enough runs after Delhi's openers have regularly failed to provide starts. The best opening stand that Delhi have come up with is 43 in 5.4 overs, with Warner and Virender Sehwag getting starts but failing to convert. Delhi's average of 15.5 is the second worst in IPL 6.
RCB - Pairs 3 Runs: 88 Overs: 16 Average: 14.66 Run rate: 5.5
The worst? That would be RCB, somewhat surprisingly considering they have Gayle as one of their openers. Their three pairs - the first was Gayle and Tillakaratne Dilshan, for two matches - have added just 88 runs at an embarrassing average of 14.66 and run rate of just 5.5 - one of just two teams whose openers score at less than run a ball. Apart from one match in which the openers put on 39, their opening partnerships have never managed more than 20. That RCB have still done well and are currently second on the points table has owed largely to Virat Kohli's consistency at No. 3 and two unbeaten blitzkriegs from Gayle.
KXIP - Pairs: 1 Runs: 69 Overs: 10 Average: 17.25 Run rate: 6.9
Punjab have put faith in one opening act for four matches - Adam Gilchrist, 41, and Mandeep Singh, 21. The pair have failed to apply pressure on opposition bowling attacks, with 24 as their best alliance. Though the run rate has been very average by Twenty20 standards - 6.9 an over - and a tally of 69 runs in four outings gives KXIP an average opening stand of just 17.25. For a team lacking in power hitters, the failure of Gilchrist to click has hurt. The skipper has been the first wicket to fall on all four occasions - he has thrice failed to bat out four overs - and not once have KXIP reached the Powerplay with all ten wickets intact.
KKR - Pairs: 1 Runs: 86 Overs: 12.5 Average: 17.2 Run rate: 6.88
The defending IPL champions have also struggled at the top, largely because of Manvinder Bisla's wretched form. Though KKR have stuck to Bisla and Gautam Gambhir as their preferred opening act in five matches so far, the results have been very ordinary. KKR's average and run rate are lower than Punjab's. Only once have Gambhir and Bisla crossed 20; the other four times a wicket fell inside three overs. Their last match marked a new low, as Bisla was out first ball of KKR's unsuccessful chase against Punjab. This is not what the team would have expected after IPL 5.
MI - Pairs: 1 Runs: 113 Overs: 17.3 Average: 22.6 Run rate: 6.53
An opening combination of Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting, with a jaw-dropping 61,756 international runs between them, would have whet the fans' appetite before IPL 6 started. However, the two legendary batsmen have struggled to put up consistent starts. Twice they have put on 50-plus stands (52 and 54) but their three other alliances have been worth 3, 0 and 4. Put together, Mumbai Indians' openers average 22.6 per stand at a run rate of 6.53. Thankfully for the team, Dinesh Karthik and Rohit Sharma have clicked more often than they have failed.
SH - Pairs: 3 Runs: 114 Overs: 21 Average: 19 Run rate: 5.43
With arguably the worse batting line-up of all teams, Hyderabad have failed to fire at the top. They paired Akshath Reddy and Parthiv Patel for four matches, which resulted in an average opening stand worth 13. Then they bumped up Cameron White to open with Patel, and that produced an alliance of 57 in nine overs - by far their best start. In the most recent match, Sunrisers handed an IPL debut to Quinton de Kock but he and Patel put on five in two overs. Of all the teams, Hyderabad have the lowest run rate - 5.43.
(All stats until the 24th match of IPL 6, between Delhi and Chennai at the Feroz Shah Kotla.)